October 15, 2015

MARY’S MUSINGS | Stuck in a Flashback

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I remember one bad night vividly during my fall semester in 2012. I went to dinner with some friends at a dining hall located in the building where I was assaulted. Not the smartest idea, but I was determined to gain some control. It was a mistake to go. We got our food and as I was walking to our table, I saw him. He knew I was there. Maybe that was why he talked louder and laughed harder. He was sitting three tables behind me. I had my back turned from him and tried to concentrate on eating, but I couldn’t. I knew my friends were worried, but I didn’t want to affect their dinners. One of them walked me back and tried to talk to me. She attempted to lighten the mood, but I was shaking. I kept telling her I was fine, that everything would be okay. When I got to my room, I collapsed on the floor, and started banging my fists on the floor. I sobbed on the ground. I could still hear his laugh, see his face; that was when I grabbed my scissors. I needed something to bring me back. The cut on my arm looked like a cat scratch; I was used to making that excuse. This wasn’t the first time that I had left a mark on my body and unfortunately it wouldn’t be the last. I knew on that night that I needed to press charges. When I went to my JA appointment that week, I told them about the dinner and how I needed him gone.

Fast forward to fall of 2014. Imagine being stuck in the worst day you’ve ever had over and over. Imagine not being able to get out, to find a safe place, to have peace. That is the power of a flashback. You cannot simply make them stop. I went through flashbacks and nightmares that affected my well being for two years. I may have decided to press charges, but I never asked for helped. I tried to be a normal college student, but I broke. I hit rock bottom. I reached out to a friend last summer because I realized I needed help and I couldn’t keep going without it. I made the steps, but sometimes things don’t always go to plan.

I was never comfortable going to parties because I wasn’t comfortable around men. This is not their fault — men are not all bad, but for someone who experienced the trauma that I did, it didn’t matter. I never said a word to my friends. Like I said, I wanted to be normal. One bad night, four days before my first therapy appointment, I tried to commit suicide. It took me three months to admit this. I left a party after something happened and I got stuck in a flashback. I couldn’t get his face out of my head. I couldn’t stop seeing his smirk, his laugh when I told him I didn’t want to go further. When I walked into my apartment all I could see was my old dorm room. I could only see everything bad that happened: I was reliving it. Pain was my release. I grabbed a knife, not even thinking straight because I just wanted it to end; I wanted it to stop. Three deep cuts on my left arm changed my life forever.

It’s been a little over a year since that awful time. And yes, three weeks later something else happened to me that really sucked as well. But I don’t hold onto the negatives anymore. YES, I still have bad days, but I have learned healthy coping skills, not to mention my huge support system of family and friends who I am not afraid to lean on anymore.

I cannot attest for others who committed, thought about committing or had someone they love commit suicide. What I can do is explain what happened to me. What I can do is emphasize understanding and education. Never pass judgment on something you do not or cannot understand.